THEN As people often say, “back in the day” years ago, no matter your age or hometown, you would always count down the days until the new release of your favourite music publication, be it NME, The Rolling Stone, or Q. It would cost from 3-5 quid, and would be worth every penny (so we thought). This would answer all of weekly questions: who’s the coolest artist on the block right now, who’s making music, is it any good, who’s touring and where can I go and see them? Our own personal fix of music news. These established music magazines were the hub of all the up-to-date news and the ultimate trendsetters within the music scene, regardless of taste.
NOW things are slightly different. For the answers to all of these continuously urging questions we go to our phones, our laptops, or our favourite venue. You rarely see people paying for a music magazine at their local shop anymore, and this has been such a drastic drop in demand that one of Britain’s most established publication, NME, has recently had to re-release as a free magazine distributed publicly on the streets and at station, just when it was seemingly going to go on forever at £2.50 a piece.
What has cause this dramatic change in the world of music and media? And more importantly is this a positive move forward or something we should fear?
As we all know (and if you aren’t just look around you and witness the sea of screens before you), we now live in a world of fast-paced, constantly delivering technology. The demand for information has changed. We want it all, and we want it now (sometimes regardless of quality); so much so that we are more likely to watch 50 8-second, instantly-loading videos of recurring jokes like “what are those?” than watch an hour long documentary about something we actually care about. We also want everything for free, and are becoming increasingly stubborn against paying for services that we use regularly.
So as a result, dominating magazines like NME quickly went from being respected sources of media and information, the first to deliver all the latest and greatest, to an antiquated, out-of-fashion magazine. The fact that NME was driven to stop charging for the publication just demonstrates how powerful this shift is. The idea of it is great: have larger, cheaper distributions in order to gain a bigger influence. But have you given it a read lately? It is a sell-out shell of what it once was. From having the majority of the pages filled with mainstream adverts, to covering the latest hot pop-star that they would have previously mocked while boasting about discovering the new underground must-see.
NME has disappointingly sold-out its identity in order to simply stay afloat. But this is not the case with everyone.
Lately there has been a rise of brilliant, independent publications such as DIY and Upset that have been built upon the idea that it should be free to join a music community. With their magazines being distributed to local music venues to encourage people to go to gigs, and a prominent passion for discovering a range of fresh talent from across the scene(s), there is a feeling of authenticity and genuineness when reading these magazines, and this honesty has been rewarded with an ever-growing group (with myself included) of committed readers.
There has also been a recent flourish of blogs, and good blogs. Real journalism, honest discussions and uncompromising exposure of artists that editors are actually passionate about. You can also see artists and bands embracing this change on traditions by becoming more creative and resourceful when releasing music, making announcements and doing their promotion campaigns. We need to stop complaining about how things have changed and learn to incorporate the new order of things. Media and music are no longer emerging from the top down, it is coming from every which-way due to the Internet and other innovative ways of distribution, bringing about a new level of diversity within the music industry and levelling the playing field for everyone.
So while some institutions and organisations have fallen into the trap of the changing market within music consumption, by selling their front-page spreads to the highest bidder, others have embraced this head on. There is now a new generation of artists, journalists and media enthusiasts with fresh ideas and an eager attitude to bring people together into a community of people who just love all kinds of music, regardless of their income.